* Writers Play With Borrowed Forms

About the Book

The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms is an anthology of intriguing essays that take their forms from ordinary, everyday sources: a recipe, a crossword puzzle, a Craig’s List ad... This selection of beautifully written, thought-provoking work was published by University of Nebraska Press in 2018 and has already become a classic in the increasingly popular genre affectionally known as "hermit crab essays." Edited and with an introduction by Kim Adrian, a forward by Brenda Miller, and an Afterward by Cheyenne Nimes, contributors include:Joey Franklin; Sarah McColl; Kathryn A. Kopple; Laurie Easter; Priscilla Long; Brian Oliu; Jennifer Metsker; Dinty W. Moore; Anushka Jasraj; Gwendolyn Wallace; Mary Peelen; Brenda Miller; Caitlin Horrocks; Judith Sornberger; Steve Fellner; Lee Upton; Ingrid Jendrzejewski; Cheyenne Nimes; Jenny Boully; Kim Adrian; Elizabeth Kerlikowske; David Shields; Judy Bolton-Fasman; Randon Billings Noble; Steve Edwards; Amy Wallen; Ander Monson; Karen Hays; Michael Martone.

After spending six months on that website's bestseller list, The Shell Game now lives proudly in The Millions' "Hall of Fame."

For more information, check out the Editor's Statement or these interviews:
• Online Survey for the Editor of an Anthology of Borrowed Form Essays in Punctuate Magazine 
•  On Anger, Experiments in Form, and The Shell Game: a Conversation with Kim Adrian at Essay Daily

"This book is the science fiction of creative nonfiction, or better yet, the Ulysses of the modern essay. It’s a shell for itself, in that, without claiming these essays as “essays,” one wouldn’t know what to call them, what to do with them. The Shell Game is far from the five paragraphs that grammar schools teach, and it makes readers feel as if they are learning what an essay is (or could be) all over again." —New Pages

"The essays in this collection bring with them a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change . . . a volume that is as much an inspiration for other writers as it is a definitive collection of a constantly evolving genre." —The Millions

"If good creative writing sparks the instinct to write, The Shell Game provides ample embers to inspire a wide range of writers. . . Anyone from the expert essayist, lay reader, or a teacher looking for an evocative anthology will find something of value in these pages." —Columbia Journal

"Kim Adrian has curated a selection of thirty essays that adopt different forms in order to present new ideas, compose startling images, and provide a deeper understanding of the relationship between form and content...The Shell Game may serve to expand what readers think of when they think of the essay." —Punctuate Magazine

"If you were to recommend this book to others, you’d likely tell them to savor it, make it last: tell them that they should not 'binge-read' it, but rather treat themselves with a new form each day until they’ve read the last one." —Hippocampus Magazine

"This collection can be returned to again and again, as the reading mind grows . . . The Shell Game makes a unique and significant contribution." —Split Rock Review

“Daring, innovative, and mind-bending, this anthology showcases the best of what is arguably the most exciting form on the literary landscape today: the hybrid, hermit crab essay.”
—Kathy Fish, coauthor of Rift and author of Wild Life

“Virginia Woolf asked of the essay ‘simply that it should give pleasure.’ The Shell Game fulfills this request, even exceeds it, bringing startling diversity of subject, voice, and form. Each essay is a new surprise, a prettier shell than ordinary, demonstrating astonishing originality in mimicry and providing, for this reader at least, pure joy.”
—Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick and Quotidiana

If you would like to receive a copy of The Shell Game for review purposes, please contact Anna Weir at